Eat Love: Food Concepts by Eating-Designer Marije Vogelzang [book review]
Eat Love: Food Concepts by Eating-Designer Marije Vogelzang (buy at Amazon) was released yesterday by BIS Publishers, a monograph collecting the food-based projects by Marije Vogelzang and her design firm Proef. Her work is conceptual food — and while the medium is purposefully edible, it's meant to be "experienced."
Sometimes serious, sometimes playful, Vogelzang is all over the place — she has no rules. Employing different strategies to subvert and tweak the experience of eating, she mixes and matches from the culinary, design, and art fields, crafting experiences in an attempt to elicit memories and emotion, examine cultures and ritual, or simply trigger new food sensations.
She calls herself, after all, an "eating designer," a somewhat unwieldy term, making it clear that she's not a food designer ("Because I'm not just focused on the aesthetics deliberately don't call myself a Food Designer"), and she's not a caterer — she claims she regularly refuses assignments, making it clear that she doesn't do theatrics or "crazy things."
The book, physically, is gorgeous: the thick, matte paper, sumptuous full-bleed photography, and bold graphic design is lovely, at times remiscent of Swallow Magazine. But in trying to possibly distance herself from the rigors of a stylish modern graphic design book, it's filled with random and odd doodles — each chapter begins with "wacky" hand-written questions such as "When was the last time someone fed you?" "In how many ways can you share food?" "Did you ever eat sitting on a swing?" Questions that are neither explored nor answered, and ultimately pose as a distraction.
It's this quirkiness that's at odds with some very thoughtful and serious art by Vogelzang. But perhaps this is who she is, since she flirts between the world of fine art installations and her own curious personal brand of food art.
Eat Love documents her various projects: from a wooden fascimile of a tree with desk lamps that literally cook the attached leaf-shaped cookies, to mixed drinks based on the Fibonacci sequence, to tablecloths made out of pastry dough, to invented animals with rich backstories that provide faked meat.
Her work is certainly potent, but that ties in directly to the biggest problem we had with the book: the photographs and too-short descriptions of the "events" leave us hungry for more, only further amplifying the "you had to be there" sentiment. Many of her projects tread into the realm of installation/performance art: Temporary experiences, limited to the finite duration of a meal. From a dinner that had diners follow a specific order of small bites directed by drum beats, to tables that are built out of curry and meant to be eaten, to a meal designed to be eaten through holes in a sheet encircling the table.
It's all very conceptual, and, at times, a little precious. And, like food, while it's fun to read about, you can't shake the feeling you'd rather just be experiencing it directly.